Robby Steinhardt, whose violin playing and vocals were a cornerstone of the American progressive rock band Kansas during its heyday in the 1970s, has died from complications of acute pancreatic and sepsis. Steinhardt passed away on Saturday July 17, 2021, with his wife Cindy by his side according to her Facebook page. Steinhardt was 71.
Steinhardt sang both lead and harmony vocals with Kansas, ofttimes exchanging roles several times during a song with vocalist/keyboardist Steve Walsh. Walsh’s high tenor and Steinhardt’s more gruff lower register blended well, as evidenced early on in the band’s recording career:
The video also showcases Steinhardt’s early position as the band’s on-stage leader, a role he would gradually share with Walsh as the latter became more visually involved.
An example from later in the band’s career demonstrates both Steinhardt’s vocal technique on the song’s verses, with Walsh taking the chorus, and how Steinhardt’s violin locked into both melodic and harmony parts during instrumental passages:
Kerry Livgren, who wrote the band’s two best-known songs “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust In The Wind,” said this on his Facebook page:
Everything is on pause with the news this morning. I have lost a friend. I can only quote myself: “I have so much to say, and yet I cannot speak.”
On a personal note, during my teen years in the 1970s Kansas was a lifeline. The band’s music enthralled and inspired all of us who hid away in our room with guitar in hand, working out the songs as best we could and sometimes even playing them with our little bands we knew were the sure ticket to rock’n’roll stardom. They weren’t, and we got on with our lives. Yet the music remained, something unique and of value that cuts through nostalgic glaze as it reminds us to this day it was, and is, possible to simultaneously rock out and engage the mind with something more than endlessly recycled riffs.
Rest in peace, Robby Steinhardt. You helped provide the soundtrack to our lives, and for that, we will always be grateful.